The Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC) had announced vacancies in the department of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) about two-and-a-half years ago and the final interview was conducted last month. I possess four years of environmental experience and passed the SPSC written examination. So, I had ground to be optimistic about my chance in the interview. What I did not realise was that, probably owing to the temporary closure of the SPSC, things would have gone messier between the exam and the interview. Here is what happened.
An interviewer clearly unfamiliar with the technicalities of the job description asked me about the biggest environmental problem of Pakistan. I talked about water and wastewater pollution because people do not have access to drinking water and the problem of wastewater could not be ignored. The learned interviewer refused to take it as an answer.
I tried to explain myself, pointing out that our mega industries, like fertiliser and power plants as well as oil and gas processing facilities have treatment plants, but small industries do not spend on such things. This basically means that their outflow, combined with municipal waste, does not get treated before it flows into streams and rivers. The learned interviewer was not convinced, insisting on the primacy of air pollution. There is no denying the issue of air pollution, but I was asked to name ‘the biggest environmental problem of Pakistan’, not a major one, and drinking water and wastewater issues remain the topmost concerns for any practising environmentalist worth his salt.
When the gentleman engaged me in an argument over the matter, I wondered if I was there for an interview or a debate.
But the learned interviewer was surely in a different mood and mode altogether.
I know a candidate working in Saudi Arabia as a senior environmentalist who also failed to ‘clear’ the interview. He had spent a decent sum of money for a round trip from Saudi Arabia just to appear in the interview, but, as it turned out, it was not worth the effort or the money.
Most of the candidates ‘selected’ had no relevant field experience, which makes the whole selection process and criteria dubious. Besides, the quota system for urban and rural areas is always there to keep things below the bar of merit.
Is it any wonder that the country has for long been suffering from brain drain? We often talk about qualified, skilled people leaving the country in search of greener pastures, but never attempt to set things right internally and allow merit to take the country forward in all disciplines. All stakeholders and relevant authorities must think about this dark side of SPSC and its selection criteria. Else, the brain drain will continue taking away the talent from among us.